Thursday 22 August 2019

'He needs to be removed from society' - Judge jails rapist for 15 years after vicious caravan attack

The Central Criminal court and inset Richard O'Brien
The Central Criminal court and inset Richard O'Brien

Declan Brennan and Isabel Hayes

A judge has jailed a rapist for 15 years after saying he needs to be removed from society until it's safe for him to return.

Richard O'Brien (57) lured a grandmother to a caravan in Dublin before raping her, assaulting her and biting her during a sustained and vicious attack on March 19, 2011.

He then fled to the UK before being extradited in 2013. Last July he was found guilty by a jury of rape, attempted rape, false imprisonment and assault causing harm earlier this year.

O'Brien with a former address in Arlington Lodge, Church Street, Tralee was sentenced in early 2015 after being convicted of separate offences of rape and false imprisonment carried out two months earlier. He received a six year sentence for that, backdated to the date of his extradition from the UK.

At his sentencing hearing last month Mr Justice Tony Hunt had him removed from court after O'Brien repeatedly interrupted proceedings, calling his victim a “filthy prostitute”.

Today Mr Justice Hunt said that the harm done by O'Brien to the victim was “very very great indeed” with “long term if not permanent damage”.

Richard O'Brien (57) of Arlington Lodge, Church Street, Tralee, who was removed from his sentencing hearing after shouting at his victim, who he was convicted of raping
Richard O'Brien (57) of Arlington Lodge, Church Street, Tralee, who was removed from his sentencing hearing after shouting at his victim, who he was convicted of raping

He said that O'Brien had identified her on the night as someone who was a vulnerable person. He had used deception by telling her there was a party while in reality he was bringing her to an isolated caravan.

He said he was tempted to impose a life sentence so that O'Brien would be kept away from the public until the executive determines it would be safe for him to be released.

He said O'Brien was “a very serious threat indeed” but said his case fell just short of one where a life sentence should be imposed.

Imposing a 15 year prison term, Mr Justice Hunt said O'Brien will be in jail for a large part of his remaining life span.

“That's his fault. He needs to be removed from society until it’s safe for him to return,” he said. He said he was giving some allowance in his sentencing to O'Brien's age and his medical issues.

He backdated the sentence to last August, when his previous sentence expired. He ordered that O'Brien be subject to post release supervision for three years and that he must notify authorities of his address, as per the Sex Offenders Act 2001.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, the woman said she has had nightmares every night for the last five years. She said the attack led to the breakdown of her 23-year relationship and she had suicidal thoughts. She said her relationship with her children and grandchildren has suffered as a result.

“For the last five years of my life I have been existing, not living,” she said.

O'Brien left school at the age of 15 and worked in the UK as a labourer and truck driver. Mr Colgan said he suffers from arthritis and sciatica and has recently been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He has been married twice and has seven children, but is estranged from his family.

Last month O'Brien repeatedly interrupted the proceedings, ordering prosecution barrister Anne Rowland SC to “get her facts straight” before turning on his defence barrister, Damien Colgan SC, and telling him: “On your bike”.

After giving O'Brien several warnings, Mr Justice Tony Hunt ordered that O'Brien be removed from court. As he was led away, O'Brien turned towards his victim and verbally abused her.

The sentence hearing continued after the judge asked Mr Colgan to continue to represent O'Brien. He has already sacked at least one legal team and is “the client from hell”, Mr Justice Hunt said.

At the hearing today Mr Colgan said he had been instructed by his client to offer an unreserved apology to the court and to the victim for the outbursts in November.

Garda Ruth Brett told Ms Rowland that the victim, who cannot be named, was having birthday drinks with friends in a Dublin pub when O'Brien offered to buy her a drink. He then invited her back to a house party, telling her it was his sister's birthday.

However, when the woman arrived at the home, she became uneasy and asked to get a taxi home. O'Brien invited her into a caravan at the back of the property on the pretext of ordering her a cab, but once inside he told her, “There's no effing sister and there's no effing taxi either”.

He then pushed her on to the bed, punched her repeatedly, bit her on the chest and neck and raped her. The woman fainted at one point during the attack, which went on for some time, the court heard.

It ended only after two men entered the caravan and stopped O'Brien. The woman fled the scene and was picked up by a couple in a car who took her to a garda station. She was then taken to a sexual assault treatment unit.

One of the men who entered the caravan also made a detailed statement to gardaí about what he had seen.

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